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Back in UFC’s good graces, Danny Castillo soaking up co-main event spot at UFC 177

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

If anybody understands how topsy-turvy life in the UFC can be, it’s Danny Castillo. Not all that long ago, Castillo found himself in the UFC doghouse when he turned down a bout with Takanori Gomi on the advice of his coach, Duane Ludwig. He went on the MMA Hour shortly thereafter and said he regretted the decision. His penitence, presumably, was a buried prelim spot against Charlie Brenneman at UFC 172.

How did he handle it? Castillo scored one of the more memorable knockouts of the year at that night at in Baltimore. Brenneman dropped like a man who’d been shot when Castillo landed the overhand right.

Since then, it’s been an ebb-and-flow of changing fortunes. Castillo was booked to fight Tony Ferguson in a lightweight battle at UFC 176 in Los Angeles, but the card was "postponed" when it was learned Jose Aldo would be unable to defend his belt against Chad Mendes as slated. His fight with Ferguson was then moved to UFC 177 in Sacramento -- the home of Team Alpha Male, where he trains -- as one of the main card attractions. Then when Jon Jones got injured and his title fight with Daniel Cormier was moved from UFC 178 to UFC 182 in early January, UFC 178 got UFC 177’s original co-main…the flyweight title fight between Chris Cariaso and Demetrious Johnson.

Suddenly, Castillo found himself in the co-main event spot of a pay-per-view in his hometown. Serendipity, right, to get that call?

"The funny thing about this sport is you never get a call," he told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. "I’ve never got a call. I’ve been on two cards that have been cancelled, but I never got a call. I check my Twitter, and was updated via Twitter, but I never got a call about any of it."

Castillo was supposed to be on the ill-fated UFC 151 back in 2012, which was cancelled just a week before it was to happen when Dan Henderson fell out of his main event bout with Jones. But this particular cancellation ends up giving him a much bigger platform that he’s had in the UFC to date.

And the last time Castillo fought in Sacramento was on the prelims against Edson Barboza at UFC on FOX 9. As a heavy underdog, Castillo rocked Barboza in the first round and looked to be on his way to finishing the Brazilian, but it wasn’t to be. Barboza was able to come back from a brutal first round beating and take a majority decision over Castillo.

"My last fight at home was fight of the night, so there’s extra incentives for me and it’s just like, when I’m at home I feel like I can just fight better than anywhere else," Castillo said. "We’re just going to have to see. I’m really excited about it. I’ve been getting better each fight. You can’t really say that for a lot of people. But throughout my 18 fights in Zuffa, each fight I’ve gotten better and better and there’s no one that can debate that."

As for coming off a PPV prelim to fighting in the penultimate spot on a PPV, Castillo says he feels like he’s back in the UFC’s good graces.

"Yeah, the sport can be extremely frustrating sometimes for several different reasons," he said. "One of the reasons is communication. I believe [communication] is a huge reason why it’s frustrating for me, is that I get everything secondhand either from my manager Lex [McMahon] or through Twitter. So it’s like, I’ve never really talked to Dana White or had a sit-down conversation with him or anything like that.

"And Joe Silva, I do see him at after parties and stuff like that, but it’s never business. It’s usually ‘how you doing,’ when one of my teammates fights or something like that is when I talk to him. So, they bumping me to co-main event means they appreciate the last fight I had here in Sac, and they know I’m a big draw in my hometown, and they appreciate the hard work. That’s just the way I look at it. It could be totally wrong, but I try to take the positives out of everything and that’s what I’m taking from this."

UFC 177 happens August 30 at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. It will be headlined by Castillo’s training partner T.J. Dillashaw, who will try and defend his bantamweight belt against Renan Barao.